A successful and efficient content marketing strategy should start with key editorial goals focused on engaging a target audience in a deep, authentic way.
But short of a crystal ball and supernatural gifts, how can you determine the stories and content refinements that will attract and engage your audience?
Listening and analytics are not only essential to ensuring your efforts are always improving, but they’re your gateway to unlocking all sorts of valuable editorial and engagement information to enhance your program.
Follow our best practices to reveal strategy-refining insights into your own content program, as well as your readership.
Build Real Relationships
In marketing, our relationship with our audiences is everything. It’s important to build a relationship with the reader that’s based on trust and credibility, so it’s vital to practice customer listening.
And this practice requires paying attention to much more than pageviews. Time spent on page, shares, and engagement rates should all be considered when iterating on your next marketing campaign or piece of content.
For instance: did a recent story of yours have a lot of pageviews but low shares and a low engagement rate? That’s a likely indicator you had a really stellar headline, but your readers found the actual content within flat or mismatched.
In this instance, you’d want to start by taking a fresh look at the actual story substance and its flow. But take note of the elements within your headline that worked to convert the reader in the first place, and fold that general approach into your future headline writing.
To get a better sense of how your audience is interacting with and discussing your content in their daily lives, tune into social listening. This kind of monitoring can reveal a variety of opportunities to bring those authentic, “sidebar” conversations to life in future content. And ensure you’re not only listening, but contributing to those conversations as appropriate. That participation can look like an energetic, rapid-fire comment thread, but can also be as simple as “liking” or re-posting an audience member’s post or thought related to your content. Even micro-interactions show your audience you’re paying attention, and help build a sense of trust.
Get used to walking this two-way virtual street with your readers to continually suss out and reflect their preferences toward your content within your strategy. Not just once per quarter, but in a daily pursuit.
And never underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned one-to-one conversation — as well as feedback from other teams like sales, PR, and customer support.
Those teams often have a ton of insights from being on the ground with your audience that your marketing team just wouldn’t be privy to.
Use Keyword Research and Analytics to Fuel Future Stories
Content is a great audience research tool, and the more you know about your audience, the more engaging and high performing your marketing becomes. By focusing on your target market and most valuable readers, along with what engages them most, marketing teams can avoid wasting time and resources on content that doesn’t deliver results.
Invest in thorough keyword research to find the angles and commonly asked questions surrounding a concept your audience is most curious about, or uncover the gaps in the conversation your competitors may have left wide open.
And don’t forget about the details here. Make sure you do your homework to ensure it’s an angle of the conversation your brand has the authority to participate in. And if there’s a seasonality aspect to a particular keyword, time your content rollout accordingly.
If you haven’t started A/B testing, now is the time. Social media platforms like Facebook and others make it easier than ever to experiment with a range of variables like CTAs, images, headlines, and more so that you can find out what works best with your audience and business goals.
Licensed content is a marketer’s secret weapon when it comes to this practice, allowing you to A/B test nearly everything about your program, and fold those insights back into your original content.
When you do A/B test, make it a sound experiment by controlling all other factors aside from one variable. For example, if you’re testing emoji use in your email headlines, resist the temptation to change anything about the actual preceding headline copy between the variants. Send that same headline with the emoji and without it to see which gets better opens.
Define exactly what it is you’re testing from the get-go to avoid jumping to false conclusions or getting lost down an A/B testing rabbit hole.
Content tagging is another good practice for keeping track of various metrics and campaign elements — crucial to obtaining a full-picture view for insightful analytics.
Define and track the purpose of each piece of content as well as its format, marketing funnel stage, target audience, and more to be able to iterate effectively. The benefits of this kind of documentation are two-fold, as they’ll serve as convincing case studies when nurturing potential customers and business decision makers.
Think Twice About AI-Powered Content
But what if the latest tech could take on all of this listening, refining, and predicting for you? As technologies advance and AI-powered content becomes better, faster, and more widespread, many brands and businesses are ready to jump on the bandwagon. But at the moment, algorithms and artificial intelligence can only go so far when it comes to creating content that actually dives deep and resonates with readers. Remember: value and quality are crucial to earning and maintaining an audience’s interest, trust, and championship.
Automating key marketing activities is a great idea when striving toward a more efficient organization, but content creation isn’t the place to start.
Good storytelling is an endeavor of the human spirit. It hinges on driving emotional and rational connections with each other, with a level of authenticity that bots just can’t touch.
Whether you’re working with B2C or B2B audiences, at the end of the day all messaging is H2H — human to human. Make it a habit to pick up the phone once in a while, expand your network, and secure your expert sources — so you can keep delivering the kind of content that stands out among the competition and the test of time.